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Upcoming event: Crime and the Media – Social Science Perspectives

In Events, Journalism, Justice, Law on October 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm

City University London’s Professors Chris Greer and Eugene McLaughlin will be speaking at this upcoming event:

Crime and the Media: Social Science Perspectives

Trial by mediafalse appeals by apparent victims of crime, citizen journalism and wrongful convictions are some of the issues explored in this innovative seminar. We will ask:

  • How useful are public appeals for help with police investigations?
  • How does media coverage of sensational crimes influence policy making?
  • Are documentary makers aware or concerned of the implications of their presentation of crimes?
  • What are the processes connecting crime and the media, and what are the social and psychological consequences of these relations?

The speakers and panel chairs are all confirmed:

Professor Shirley Pearce, Chair of the College of Policing

  • Professor Laurie Taylor, Sociologist and broadcaster
  • Professor Jon Silverman, Former BBC Home Affairs Correspondent
  • Professor David Canter AcSS, University of Huddersfield
  • Professors Chris Greer and Eugene McLaughlin, City University London
  • Professor Roger Graef, LSE and film-maker
  • Professor Yvonne Jewkes, University of Leicester

The conference will be of value to academics, media practitioners, policy-makers, those who work on issues surrounding crime, and anybody else curious about the implications of our dominant contact with offending arising through second-hand representations by journalists and fiction writers.

Upcoming event, 11 July: Public Service Broadcasting in the Era of Austerity

In Broadcasting, City University London, Events, Journalism, Media policy on July 10, 2013 at 8:16 am

In light of the Greek government’s decision to close down the public broadcaster ERT and make its employees redundant – as part of the latest public spending cuts imposed to meet the terms of the country’s bailout deal – City University London is hosting a half-day conference on PSB in the age of austerity:

  • Location: City University London (Room A130, School of Social Sciences)
  • Time: Thursday 11 July, 11-5pm
  • Booking: The event is free to attend and coffee/tea/lunch will be provided. A wine reception will follow the event. Please RSVP P.Iosifidis@city.ac.uk if you wish to attend for catering purposes.

The following themes, among others, will be addressed –

  • What has happened to ERT and how the rise of the far right in Greece, the rise of social tension, has made it all important for Greece to have an impartial public service broadcaster;
  • Wider implications for PSB in Europe; Subsequent attacks on the BBC by right wing politicians as well as commercial operators;
  • Political and market/commercial pressures for a smaller PSB service in the era of austerity;
  • The role of PSB in supporting democracy and freedom of speech;
  • PSB, production of quality programmes, impact on children and young people

Confirmed speakers/discussants include:

  • Professor Steven Barnett (U of Westminster)
  • Professor Patrick Barwise (London Business School)
  • Professor Jean Chalaby (City University London)
  • Professor Sylvia Harvey (U of Leeds)
  • Dr. Irini Katsirea (Middlesex U)
  • Professor Jeanette Steemers (U of Westminster)
  • Professor Lorna Woods (City University London)
  • Roger Mosey (Editorial Director, BBC; Executive Board of EBU)
  • Nicholas Jones (former BBC political and industrial correspondent)

TIMETABLE

10:30 – 11:00: Welcome – tea/coffee

11:00 -13:00: The closure of ERT and the implications on freedom of speech

  • Chair: David Obrien (City University London)
  • Petros Iosifidis (City University London) ‘the ERT story’
  • Irini Katsirea (Middlesex U) ‘the high court decision about ERT’
  • Nicholas Jones (former BBC political and industrial journalist) ‘PSB: A vital role at times of strife’
  • Steven Barnett (U of Westminster)
  • Discussant: Patrick Barwise (London Business School)

13:00 – 14:00: Lunch

14:00 – 16:00: The Role of PSB in society

  • Chair: Howard Tumber (City University London)
  • Lorna Woods (City University London) ‘obligations to provide PSB under EU law’
  • Jeanette Steemers (U of Westminster) ‘PSB and children’
  • Jean Chalaby (City University London)
  • Roger Mosey (Editorial Director, BBC; Executive Board of EBU)
  • Discussant: Sylvia Harvey (U of Leeds)

16:00 – 17:00: Wine Reception

George Brock: The post-Leveson dog’s breakfast

In Comment, Journalism, Law on April 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

Professor George Brock

This post originally appeared on georgebrock.net.

I know that this week’s media debate is going to be all about the pros and cons of real-time news sharing in fast-moving crises like the Boston marathon bombings and subsequent shootouts, but my blog has a little catching up to do. While I have been writing a book, the government, Houses of Lord and Commons and the Hacked Off campaign have managed to make a gigantic dog’s breakfast of the follow-up to the Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking.

This was pretty much the only subject on which I published during the long winter, so I’ll start by rounding up that stuff. It’s hardly surprising that inventive lawyers intent on intimidation are using Leveson’s recommendations to try to silence newspaper reporting or that the Metropolitan Police, who had a grimly embarrassing time in front of Leveson, are being cautious and unhelpful. What has surprised me is the depth of the legal and political doo-doo into which the government has stepped. In a hurry to get the Leveson Inquiry dealt with before the 2015 election season opens next year, the government tied itself in knots which may take years to unravel. The Royal Charter deal on a new press regulator was a rushed botch.

The largest single dilemma which Leveson plonked in the government’s lap is defining “the press”. Leveson was so heavily preoccupied by the issue of the misuse of power accumulated by the major newspaper groups, that he did not treat this as a central issue. He should have: defining who is to be covered by law or regulation dealing with news publishing is a basic issue in an era when “the press” doesn’t really exist any more. I argue in a TLS review (£) of Leveson and a report from the Columbia Journalism School on “post-industrial journalism” that the Leveson report’s worst flaw was that it was so backward-looking.

Thrashing round trying to define internet sites and blogs which are “news-related” and suchlike won’t work for anyone except lawyers who can spend happy years in court fighting over definitions. In this BBC explainer there is a nice little film by Newsnight’s David Grossman trying to explain the new law as it relates to online publishers. The Department of Culture Media and Sport have produced a colourful new diagram to help publishers work out if they’re covered by the new law. Here’s Patrick Smith of MediaBriefing picking holes.

The government seems frightened of open public debate about issues such as “public interest”. The reporting of the Leveson Report when it came out late last year was shoddy and partial. The negotiations leading up to the Royal Charter were opaque. The legislation is whistling through the Commons. Debate hasn’t happened. Opportunities to find better ways have been missed. And Leveson was a great chance to improve law and regulation of the news media, as I tried to explain in this lecture at Gresham College. Pity it was missed.

Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism Research Studentships [deadline 29 April 2013]

In Announcements, Journalism, Justice, Law on April 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

The Centre is offering three three-year, full-time doctoral Research Studentships, available to both home and overseas fee-paying students. Applications can be made to undertake doctoral studies in a topic relevant to one of the main themes of the Centre:

For entry in October 2013, the studentships will attract a bursary of £15,000 per annum in addition to payment of the tuition fees. Successful candidates will usually be expected to undertake some teaching support activity in their second and third years, by agreement with the School concerned.

Closing date for applications: 29 April 2013

For further information please contact the Centre Research Manager: Peter Aggar

Informal enquiries can be made to the Centre Directors: Professor Howard Tumber (Journalism), Professor Lorna Woods (Law) and Dr Chris Greer (Sociology).

Lorna Woods: Reviewing the Communications Review

In Journalism, Law, Research on March 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Professor Lorna Woods

As part of the ongoing discussion surrounding the Communications Review, Lorna Woods, Professor and Associate Dean of Research at City Law School, City University London, explains which areas of communications regulation are being given the most attention, and which areas should be given more. This post was originally published on the LSE Media Policy Project blog.

The current government has long promised us a review of the Communications Act 2003, but with Leveson rumbling on in the background, progress seems slow.  The review process was launched by Jeremy Hunt in 2011 who issued an ‘open letter’ and DCMS created a review webpage. In 2012 a series of seminars were held (aimed at industry, not consumers/audiences).  The topics identified were:

  • Consumers: this includes content regulation, and online transactional and audience behaviour.
  • Competition in content: this envisages the market as the solution to diversity issues.
  • Spectrum: this concerns greater roll-out/connectivity and assumes the desirability of spectrum trading.  For example, Ofcom has recently issued a consultation on one aspect of spectrum: whether there should be charges for national digital terrestrial TV (DTT), local TV and digital audio broadcasting (DAB), in line with Ofcom’s duty to secure optimal use of radio spectrum.
  • TV Content: this questions the current requirements of the existing regulatory framework for broadcasting and looks for other options such as the introduction of tax incentives to support the creation of digital content. It also considers the policy objectives for UK and European regulatory requirements for Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) prominence, conditions for carriage consent and product placement. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is examining these issues as part of its inquiry into support for the creative industries, with a focus on the development of high quality British content.
  • Radio: this questions whether the radio licensing regime is sufficiently flexible for future changes, and whether there are existing barriers to the on-going success of the radio sector.

Two points should be emphasised. The first is a recognition of a changing media environment that focuses on new (or not so new) services beyond traditional mass media.  The second is a deregulatory impulse.  These are no doubt important topics, but does the Communications Review cover everything that is actually under review, or needs reviewing?

While the review did identify carriage issues – and certainly the issue of the fees charged to PSB by satellite companies has risen up the agenda – it did not raise the issue of net neutrality directly, although this has already been the topic of considerable discussion.  (See, e.g., Ofcom’s approach as well as the voluntary code. Ofcom’s workplan suggests there may be more to come.)

The review did not directly address challenges in broadcast regulation, implicitly affirming the consensus established in the 2003 Act. Several broadcasting licences are currently being renewed, while the BBC Charter is not due for renewal until 2016. It may be that the Government was wary of opening the door to calls for Leveson to be implemented, or that the government is complacent if certain PSB obligations are weakened following licence renegotiation. Moreover, it is often unclear which platforms for content are subject to which types of regulations, such as the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) rules. Having a fractured and piecemeal system does not reflect a converged environment and may be confusing for consumers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comment: ECtHR decision in Pirate Bay case – Neij and Sunde Kolisoppi v. Sweden

In Comment, Law on March 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

By Professor Lorna Woods

The European Court of Human Rights declared the Pirate Bay claim for freedom of expression inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded [summary, PDF].  It follows the case earlier this year of Ashby Donald (Appl. nr. 36769/08 judgment 10th January 2013) and while it follows much of the reasoning in Ashby Donald, the court’s decision here carries some unusual points worth noting.

Ashby Donald and the Pirate Bay case both take place in a digital context in that they both relate to use of the Internet.  Ashby Donald was noteworthy as it seems to accept that speech infringing copyright can in principle claim protection.

This might seem good news for Pirate Bay, but the terms of Ashby Donald recognised the need to protect copyright, meaning freedom of expression by no means automatically trumps copyright protection.  It certainly does not appear to be a pirate’s charter, as is re-affirmed by the admissibility decision in Pirate Bay: Neij and Sunde Kolisoppi v. Sweden (Appl. nr. 40397/12, decision 13th March 2013).

The applicants were both involved in the running of the website “The Pirate Bay”, one of the world’s largest file sharing services on the Internet.  They were charged with complicity to commit crimes in violation of the Copyright Act. Subsequently, several entertainment companies brought private claims within the proceedings.

In April 2009, the Stockholm District Court sentenced them to one year’s imprisonment and held them, together with the other defendants, jointly liable for damages.  The applicants complained that the finding of complicity had violated their freedom of expression; they should not be held liable for others’ use of their service.  Their claim was very broad.  The Court summarised it thus:

“According to the applicants, Article 10 of the Convention enshrines the right to offer an automatic service of transferring unprotected material between users, according to basic principles of communication on Internet, and within the information society. In their view, Article 10 of the Convention protects the right to arrange a service on the Internet which can be used for both legal and illegal purposes, without the persons responsible for the service being convicted for acts committed by the people using the service. In this connection, they referred to international frameworks, expressing a far-reaching right to receive and provide information between Internet users.”

While the Court eventually rejected the claim as manifestly ill-founded, its reasoning might suggest that to some extent accepts this broad-reaching right exists.  It started by recognising the importance of Internet, but linked to public sphere (e.g. news) raising the question of the extent to which the Internet is special in this regard.

The Court reaffirmed that “Article 10 applies not only to the content of the information but also to the means of transmission or reception since any restriction imposed on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information” – but without considering who it restricted and whose right to expression is affected.

The Court then further blurs this point: “the applicants put in place the means for others to impart and receive information within the meaning of Article 10 of the Convention. The Court considers that the actions taken by the applicants are afforded protection under Article 10 § 1 of the Convention and, consequently, the applicants’ convictions interfered with their right to freedom of expression”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming event, 6 March 2013: The Future of Humanitarian Reporting

In Comment, Events, Journalism on March 1, 2013 at 9:59 am

Glenda Cooper

The Haitian earthquake, January 2010: a man performs brain surgery on a 15-year-old girl; a second writes a gripping eye-witness account for the Guardian about the dead bodies piled up in the street.

In the past it would have been pretty obvious which was the journalist and which the aid worker. But Dr Sanjay Gupta was working for CNN as a reporter when he carried out the surgery; Prospery Raymond, who is named as the author of the Guardian piece, was Christian Aid’s country manager who survived the quake.

Meanwhile the latest news was being broken via social media. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted, new media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Skype were crucial in delivering early information about damage and relief efforts. By the time Hurricane Sandy occurred two and-a-half years later, people were using the photo app Instagram to upload pictures of the storm at the rate of 10 a second – 1.3 million hashtagged in total.

We’ve come a long way since Michael Buerk’s seminal piece from Korem in 1984. As a piece of journalism that report still has the power to move and shock. But what is astonishing is that in seven minutes only two voices are ever heard: Buerk and a white Medecins Sans Frontieres doctor.

But what does it mean for the way we report humanitarian disasters in future if ordinary citizens can break the news, aid workers can act as journalists, while journalists cross the line and get involved?

What kind of pictures and reporting are we exposed to if anyone can upload pictures of a dying victim of a hurricane – or a dying dictator, as happened in the case of Gaddafi?

And while a wealth of user-generated content made the 2004 tsunami a mega-story and saw mega amounts of aid donated ($1,241 per survivor – 50 times the worst-funded crises that year, according to the Red Cross), what kind of disasters will we end up covering if it takes tweets and Facebook updates to get our attention?

Next week, a conference organised by City University’s Centre for Law Justice and Journalism, in partnership with the Red Cross, will debate these very issues with some of the foremost names in academia, journalism and aid work. It will look at the latest developments in the use of UGC by mainstream media and aid agencies, the relationship between journalists and aid workers now that social media is a factor, and consider how, in a Twitter age, we should think about reporting emotion and trauma?

Speakers include:

The BBC College of Journalism will be blogging from the conference: full programme. Places are limited. If you wish to attend please email Peter Aggar, or for any queries about the schedule contact Glenda Cooper.

This post first appeared on at the BBC College of Journalism.

Violation of Article 10 in Yildirim v. Turkey (no. 3111/10)

In Cases, Law on December 20, 2012 at 8:18 am

By Professor Lorna Woods

Yildirim concerned the blocking by the Turkish authorities of all access to personal sites on the “Google.com” network, with the aim of prohibiting access to one such site in particular.

The order for blocking arose as one site had insulted the memory of Atatürk and the Turkish Telecommunications and Electronic Data Authority (TİB) (responsible for implementing the order) advised the court issuing the order that for technical reasons TİB would need to block sites.google.com entirely in order to block the offending site. Therefore, the court granted that request.

The blocking order had the effect of preventing the applicant from accessing his own site, which to publish his own academic work as well as his opinion and comments on various matters and which had no connection to the site concerned. Yıldırım claimed that this measure breached his right to freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas.

The case was communicated to the Grand Chamber on 31.01.2011 and the Court handed down its judgment on 18th December 2012 [PDF] and it found a violation of Article 10 ECHR. The Court reiterated established case law that Article 10 applied not only to the content of information but also to the means of disseminating it.

The Court noted the significance of the Internet, which in the ECtHR’s view has become one of the principal means of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information. While the blocking order was based on a court order itself based in Turkish law, which empowers a court to order the blocking of access to content published on the Internet if there were sufficient reasons to suspect that the content gave rise to a criminal offence, the ECtHR found that the relevant Turkish law did not authorize the blocking of an entire online platform, such as Google Sites.

The Turkish law did not therefore satisfy the requirement (under Article 10(2) ECHR) that any law restricting freedom of expression must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable individuals to regulate their conduct. Further, there was no evidence that Google had been informed of the illegal content or that it had refused to comply with an interim measure concerning the offending site, suggesting a lack of proportionality.

The law also failed to provide sufficient safeguards against potential abuses. The ECtHR reiterated that a restriction on access to a source of information would only be compatible with the ECHR if a strict legal framework was in place both regulating the scope of a ban and affording the guarantee of judicial review to prevent possible abuses.  Here, the court had simply allowed too much latitude to TİB.

Clearly, the handing down of sweeping blocking orders which include much legitimate content as well as potentially illegitimate material, constitutes a severe violation of freedom of expression.  While the ECtHR has recognised the significance of the Internet, this judgment does not mean that no blocking orders can comply with Article 10 ECHR.

The ECtHR’s reasoning is based on the facts of the case where there was an extreme response to a particular problem.  What this case does make clear is that laws seeking to enable blocking orders will require careful drafting, so that any orders are as targeted as possible and that there must be effective scrutiny of the need for such orders.

Upcoming talk, 28 November, University of Southhampton – Scandal Without End: Sir Jimmy Savile, child sexual abuse and the BBC crisis

In Events, Journalism, Justice on November 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

Upcoming event: Scandal Without End: Sir Jimmy Savile, Child Sexual Abuse and the BBC Crisis

Where and when: Wednesday 28th November at 4pm,Institute of Criminal Justice Research, University of Southampton. Building 4, Law School. Room 4005 Highfield Campus. Light Refreshments will be available. 

Speakers: Chris Greer and Eugene McLaughlin.

On 3 October 2012 a heavily trailed ITV documentary branded Sir Jimmy Savile as a manipulative sexual predator. The resulting scandal around ‘Savile-as-child-abuser’ destroyed Savile’s ‘cultural icon’ status and implicated multiple institutions on charges of facilitation, failure and denial. The intensification of the scandal has to date resulted in the establishment of police investigations into hundreds of sexual abuse allegations, arrests, official inquiries, vigilante activities and the resignation of the Director General of the BBC. In this paper we trace the origins and development of the ‘Savile-as-child abuser’ scandal, and apply the ‘scandal amplification spiral’ (Greer and McLaughlin, 2012) to make sense of how, why and with what consequences the affair has escalated into a full blown institutional crisis for the BBC.

  • Flyer [PDF]
  • Chris Greer is co-director of the Centre of Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London
  • Eugene McLaughlin is Professor of Criminology, University of Southampton

Introducing the Crime, Justice and Society Research Group

In City University London, Events, Justice, Law on May 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

This group, based at City University London, was established to research and examine issues relating to the interactions between the law, its application and representation (for example in the media) and the agencies dealing with it. The research areas are: Criminal Law, Criminal Justice and Socio-Legal studies.

Therefore, the group aims at including academics from both the Law School and the School of Criminology. We hold a series of seminars at City University with speakers who present research papers in areas such as: the changing nature of news media-police chief relations, the criminal justice system in the socio-legal context and historical perspectives on corporate liability.

Our mission is to contribute to the enhancement of the Criminal Law and Criminal Justice research cluster via seminars, conferences and workshops that focus on innovative perspectives on the contextualization of the law and criminal justice system.

For further information please contact the group convener Dr. Riccardo Montana (Riccardo.Montana.1@city.ac.uk).

More information here.

Upcoming seminars

  • “Phone-hacking, Riots, Looting, Gangs and Police Chiefs: Sir Hugh Orde’s ‘Trial by Media’”, Dr. Chris Greer and Prof. Eugene McLaughlin, Wednesday 30 May, City University London

Past seminars

  • “Moral Panics and Punitiveness: Putting a Criminal Justice System in Context”, Dr. Riccardo Montana, 25 April 2012
  • “Corporations and Individual Businesspersons in Domestic and International Criminal Law”, Dr. Grietje Baars, 28 March 2012
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